Monday, January 15, 2018

New Period Western Film Promotes Discussion About the Native American Experience

Posted By on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 4:24 PM

For both Wes Studi, a Native American actor who plays Yellow Hawk, a dying Cheyenne war chief, and Q’Orianka Kilcher, an American actress who plays Yellow Hawk’s wife Elk Woman, director Scott Cooper’s new film Hostiles portrays Native Americans in a positive light.

The period Western centers on surly army captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale), who reluctantly agrees to escort Yellow Hawk and his family back to their tribal lands.

It opens area-wide on Friday.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

'Unseen' Documentary About Anthony Sowell Murders Debuts This Month

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 1:37 PM

Unseen, a true crime documentary about the horrific Anthony Sowell murders, is set to hit DVD, Blu-ray and a handful of streaming services January 23. Directed by Cleveland-based filmmaker Laura Paglin (Facing Forward), the gripping film was an official selection at the Cleveland International Film Festival and DOC NYC.

Covering the house of horrors on Imperial Avenue in Mount Pleasant, where 11 bodies were discovered in 2009, the documentary also looks into the lives of those who survived the ordeal.

In an interview with Medium's Women and Hollywood, Paglin said she wanted viewers to takeaway a few key points.

"I want them to think of a drug addict they might pass on the street as a human being and realize that we, as individuals, aren’t insulated from the circumstances that impacted these women. The killer, Anthony Sowell, took advantage of the attitudes already present — the idea of treating women with an addiction as non-people or as 'crack heads.'"

Check out the trailer for the film below: 
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Set in Cleveland, the Action Flick 'Acts of Violence' Will Open Tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Since so much of the action flick Acts of Violence, which opens tomorrow at Atlas Diamond Center and will be available on On Demand tomorrow as well, takes place inside warehouses and dark clubs and bars, it’s difficult to recognize much of Cleveland in the movie, even though the film is set here.

The city skyline appears a few times, and the film includes a reference to the Warehouse District, but it could almost be set in almost any Midwestern town.

The plot centers on two guys who must rely on their military training to free their brother’s fiancée (Melissa Bolona) from the clutches of Max Livingston (Mike Epps), a dangerous sex trafficker and gangster (Mike Epps).

Along the way, the brothers enlist the help of James Avery (Bruce Willis), a hard-nosed detective who’s been on the hunt for Max but has had difficulty getting the help he needs to put the man behind bars.

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Cinematheque to Screen Documentary About Rape Victim Recy Taylor

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 9:46 AM

In her recent speech at the Golden Globes, actress Oprah Winfrey referenced Recy Taylor, a woman whom Winfrey said was “abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church.”

Rosa Parks investigated the case, and though the men were never persecuted, Parks became a Civil Rights Movement activist.

Winfrey says that Taylor, who just recently passed away, “lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men.”

In the wake of Winfrey’s rousing speech, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque has added the documentary film The Rape of Recy Taylor to its schedule.

Director Nancy Bairiki’s 2017 documentary uses interviews, photographs and film clips to examine the incident. The New York Times proclaims that the film is “a documentary of multiple layers and marvelous gumption.”

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Cinematheque to Host Local Revival Premiere of Sex Pistols Documentary

Posted By on Mon, Jan 8, 2018 at 4:37 PM

  • Courtesy of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque
The Sex Pistols began their first tour of the States some 40 years ago. After seven shows, that tour would be the last to feature the original lineup, and the band would call it quits.

Gonzo filmmaker Lech Kowalski shot footage of many of the gigs for his documentary, D.O.A.: A Right of Passage. After capturing the band live, he then flew to England and interviewed bassist Sid Vicious and filmed punk bands such as Generation X and Sham 69. He also shot footage of Cleveland heroes Stiv Bators and the Dead Boys.

Vicious and the movie’s financier died before Kowalski could complete the film to his satisfaction. Despite that, the movie had its premiere in 1981 at the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village and has become an underground classic despite being out of circulation.

Last year, MVD Entertainment Group issued a new digital restoration of the film.

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque will screen that new digital restoration in Cleveland for the very first time. Tickets are $10, $7 for Cinematheque members and students.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mockumentary Approach Benefits Biopic 'I, Tonya'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 3, 2018 at 10:43 AM

Director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm, The Finest Hours) could’ve told the story of Tonya Harding, the skater who allegedly engineered an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan prior to the 1994 Olympics, in any number of ways.

That he chose to stage his biopic as a mockumentary proved to be the right choice. In his capable hands, the dark comedy that often breaks the fourth wall provides a critique of celebrity culture and simultaneously captures the absurdity and tragedy of the situation.

The movie opens areawide on Friday.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Here are the 10 Best Movies of 2017, According to Scene

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 7:55 AM

  • Blade Runner 2049
Below, I've assembled my ten favorite films of 2017, a task that should have been straightforward, given my rating system, but which nevertheless became an agonizing process of continual shuffling and reassessment.

These days, I grade movies on a 25-point scale: five points for script; five for acting; five for technical elements (visual effects, editing, sound (incl. score); five for aesthetic elements (cinematography, production design, costumes, etc.); and five for something I stupidly call "style points" which amounts to a personal bonus. I gave Wonder Woman a five in the style column, for example, because it was the first superhero movie to both star and be directed by a woman. I am the arbiter of style, is the point.

The majority of the movies I saw in 2017 were scored in the 12-18 range, basically B and C grade territory. No film achieved a perfect 25 this year, though I'm always amending my rankings. Just this year, I re-watched Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005) and elevated it from a 23 to a 25, joining Christopher Nolan's The Prestige as my other 25 from that year.

I have not yet seen the following movies, which all have the potential to be inserted near the top of my annual list: Downsizing, The Greatest Showman, Ferdinand, The Florida Project, The Square, Suburbicon, Happy Death Day, Ingrid Goes West, Good Time.

The following were ranked 20/25: Mother!, Logan, It Comes at Night, Battle of the Sexes, Wonder Woman.

The following were ranked 21/25 and just missed the Top 10: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stronger, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water.

And here is my Top 10.

  • Frantz
10. Frantz (My rating: 21/25, Metascore: 73)
Dir. by Francois Ozon; starring Pierre Niney, Paula Beer

Young German actress Paula Beer is a revelation in this devious, soft-spoken drama from Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, In the House). In the aftermath of WWI, a grieving German woman mourns the death of her fiancé. A mysterious Frenchman comes to town. It’s a black-and-white, under-the-radar gem that keeps you guessing at every turn. It also concludes with one of the best kisses I’ve ever seen on screen.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 4/12/17, "...a gorgeous and morally vexing film.")

  • Baby Driver
9. Baby Driver (My rating: 21/25, Metascore: 86)
Dir. by Edgar Wright; starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey

Though the fanfare has quieted somewhat in light of Kevin Spacey’s sexual misconduct allegations, this sonic boom of a heist film was the early summer’s surprise smash hit. The script sizzles like bacon and cracks like a whip in perfect time with a pulsing soundtrack. Even without the expertly staged car chases — just as fun (and way more plausible) than The Fate of the Furious’s – this movie would be a livewire. It leaps off the screen.

(Scene review by Jeff Niesel, 6/28/17, "a thrilling heist film that features several Wright-like twists and benefits from witty dialogue, a killer soundtrack and some spectacular chase scenes.") 

  • Raw
8. Raw (My rating: 21/25, Metascore: 81)
Dir. by Julia Ducournau; starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf

If you can stomach it, Raw is one of the more forceful coming-of-age films in recent memory. The press focused on its viscera – viewers walked out in disgust on the festival circuit – because, well, it chronicles a young French veterinary student who stumbles upon an addiction to human flesh. But the story is rich in metaphor and striking in its portrayals of sisterhood, aberrance, hazing, sex and fear. Though less publicized, Raw is every bit as scorching a cinematic debut as Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 4/5/2017, "...bold and probing and fearlessly weird. It marks Ducournau instantly as an assured and adventurous voice in a French milieu that has already been known to push boundaries in the horror genre.")

  • I, Daniel Blake
7. I, Daniel Blake (My rating: 21/25, Metascore: 78)
Dir. by Ken Loach; starring Dave Johns, Hayley Squires

A painstaking illustration of the inefficiency and inhumanity of government bureaucracy, as seen through the lives of a 59-year-old carpenter and a young single mom who become friends as they seek social benefits in Scotland. Searing scene work from the director of 2006’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 6/7/2017, "...absolutely gut-wrenching stuff.")

  • Dunkirk
6. Dunkirk (My rating: 22/25, Metascore: 94)
Dir. by Christopher Nolan; starring Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance

Christopher Nolan strikes again with this crisp and exhilarating WWII drama. On an IMAX screen, the harried allied evacuation of Dunkirk beach is brought to huge and vivid life. With limited dialogue, the genius of the script lies not in the characters but in the various time signatures. Three concurrent narratives – land, air and sea – each frenzied and heartrending in its own way, converge upon a stirring climax from different starting points. It’s yet another innovation from the narrative maestro who gave us Memento.

  • Get Out
5. Get Out (My rating: 22/25, Metascore: 84)
Dir. by Jordan Peele; starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams

Easily the best and most original premise of the year, this horror-comedy from Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame) exploded onto the scene in February and will finish the year in the box office’s top 15, ahead of installments from the Pirates, Transformers and Cars franchises – no small feat. Peele’s film is a biting social commentary with pitch-perfect supporting performances surrounding Daniel Kaluuya, playing a young black photographer who discovers, to his horror, a form of racism neither he nor we have ever seen before.

  • Wind River
4. Wind River (My rating: 22/25, Metascore: 73)
Dir. by Taylor Sheridan; starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the scripts for both 2015's Sicario and last year’s Hell or High Water, now seems to be Hollywood’s authoritative voice on crime dramas in the American West. This alternately haunting and gripping neo-Western murder mystery follows a tracker and an FBI agent (Renner and Olsen) as they investigate the death of a native woman on a Wyoming reservation. Rural (and in particular, native) poverty is deftly and unblinkingly represented, as is the elevated threat of sexual assault for native women. The self-propelled narrative is as emotionally charged as The Snowman wasn’t. A brilliantly staged standoff at an oil outpost is in contention for the year’s best scene.

(Scene review by Jeff Niesel, 8/16/2017, a "finely crafted film."

  • Blade Runner 2049
3. Blade Runner 2049 (My rating: 23/25, Metascore: 81)
Dir. by Denis Villeneuve; starring Ryan Gosling, Ana de Arnas

This sequel that no one asked for or expected is nevertheless the year’s most visually arresting cinematic experience. Its colors, its textures, its locations, its tech – all of it amounts to a more vibrant, more interesting, more unique and more fully realized world than just about every half-baked dystopia or turgid space opera that viewers get each year. (It leaves the accomplished Last Jedi in the dust.) With a script as dark and mercurial as Blade Runner (1982), this cyberpunk noir epic both honors and vigorously builds upon its predecessor.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 10/5/2017, "...big and loud and long and grand ... an arresting visual marvel [that] deserves to be viewed in premium formats."

  • War for the Planet of the Apes
2. War for the Planet of the Apes (My rating: 23/25, Metascore: 82)
Dir. by Matt Reeves; starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson

The conventional award-season wisdom is that the Best Actor Oscar is Gary Oldman’s to lose (for his turn as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour). But I’m here to stump, loud and often, for Andy Serkis, for his mastery as Caesar, the simian protagonist of the thrilling Apes trilogy. This third (and hopefully final) installment takes the franchise’s visual effects to new, staggering heights. Furthermore, its terrifying vision of radical ideology and violent prejudice couldn’t be more resonant in today’s political climate. War is a monumental capstone that manages to eclipse 2014’s fantastic Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and is anchored, once again, by Serkis’ career-defining lead performance.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 7/12/2017, "...a must-see ... CGI as eye-popping and precise as anything the field has yet produced ... One hopes that the producers will not sully the franchise by contriving a string of weak followup episodes after this splendid trilogy has ended with such power and elegance.")

1. Lady Bird (My rating: 24/25, Metascore: 94)
Dir. by Greta Gerwig; starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf

Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress. If it doesn't win all five Oscars — and it's a long-shot, I know — it should most certainly be the front-runner in many of those categories. Greta Gerwig has wowed audiences nationwide with this marvelous place-based coming-of-age film. Its script bristles with literary intensity as it renders a volatile relationship between a teenage daughter and her mom with more clairvoyance and painful accuracy than anything I've ever seen. The attention to detail, and Gerwig's affection for her characters and her hometown, is joyously evident in every scene. A triumph.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 11/15/2017, "...marks Gerwig as an artist of equal talent and creative force — originality, spunk and heart — on either side of the camera.")
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